Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region officials on Friday denied a recent report claiming mosques in the region have been demolished, and urged the United States to stop smearing China's policy in Xinjiang by fabricating stories.
In June, the US Department of State submitted the 2019 International Religious Freedom Report to the Congress, which alleged that Xinjiang was repressing religious freedom by demolishing mosques across the region.
"The allegations carried in the report are totally groundless and rumors. Its real intention is to politicize religious issues, using religion to have a hand in Xinjiang's affairs and interfere in China's internal affairs," Ilijan Anayt, spokesman for the regional government, said during a news conference on Friday.
Ilijan Anayt said the so-called "forced demolition of mosques" in the region was totally nonsense. The legal rights and interests of the venues for religious activities that have registered in accordance with the law are protected by the government.
"Xinjiang has always attached great importance to the protection and repair of mosques, and the governments at all levels have not only helped and supported the improvement of mosques, but also guaranteed the normal religious needs of religious believers," he added.
Ilijan Anayt said some mosques in Xinjiang were built in the 1980s-1990s or earlier and the facilities in the mosques have become shabby with potential safety hazards, therefore, the regional government has renovated dilapidated facilities and adjusted the overall layouts of those dangerous mosques.
"We have improved the conditions of the mosques and met the needs of the believers, which has been widely welcomed by religious personages and believers," he said.
In response to the report alleging that the regional government dismantled the Jiami Mosque of Yecheng county in Kashgar prefecture and the 800-year-old Id Kah Mosque in Hotan prefecture in 2018, Ilijan said the report was not true.
"In fact, those two century-old mosques have not been demolished, but have been well protected by the local governments," he said.
According to Ilijan Anayt, the gatehouse and gate tower of the Jiami Mosque were evaluated as in dangerous condition in September 2018. In order to protect the believers during their religious activities, the gatehouse and gate tower were repaired in February 2019, and the renovated mosque has been put into use on March 6, 2019.
Ilijan Anayt said the time-honored Id Kah Mosque in Hotan prefecture is also well preserved, and it was already included into national cultural relic protection list by the State Council in 2013.
Meanwhile, in response to a photo published by the US Embassy in China showing the destroyed plaque of 1,000-year-old Id Kah mosque in Kashgar, Ilijan Anayt said it was merely nonsense and he urged the embassy to stop spreading rumor and correct the false statement.
"Since the plaque was exposed to outside, and the script on it was blurred by weather over the years. In 2017, the mosque started renovating, rewriting and repainting the plaque after consulting with Islamic scholars and believers," said Ilijan Anayt, adding that the plaque had been repaired and is hanging on the outer wall of the prayer hall now.